Prime Minister: Fibre optic cable must be a win-win

POSTED: 02/14/13 12:36 PM

St. Maarten – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Willams admits that the government should have already answered the Dutch government on its request to land a fibre optic cable here, but St. Maarten is not prepared to have a discussion without certain conditions being put in place, she says. During yesterday’s Council of Ministers press conference, the leader of government said that the Court had actually instructed the government of St. Maarten to give a reply to the request for the landing. The government has to do that and we should have given a formal answer even before.”

The prime minister said that before answering the request, the government was looking at gathering information on the environmental impact and other technicalities with having a fibre optic cable run through the island.

Minister of Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk wrote a tersely worded letter to St. Maarten that was published by the Dutch government earlier this week. He outlined various issues, he concluded, are hampering the smooth functioning of Dutch municipalities Saba and St. Eustatius.

The prime minister stated her displeasure with the tone of Minister Plasterk’s letter. On the matter of the fibre optic cable, Plasterk wrote, “In spite of repeated talks with representatives of the Dutch government, your government still has not issued the permit to land the cable in St. Maarten. Therefore work has started to establish a connection with St. Barths. It is however still my wish to also establish the connection with St. Maarten.  I urge you therefore to make a statement within short about the necessary permit, conform the recent court ruling.”

During Minister Plasterk’s first visit here to the island, last month, the prime minister said St. Maarten fully explained its position regarding the kind of competition that another fibre optic cable would present for government owned company Telem; it was not taken into consideration.

“The cable will be to the detriment of Telem and we are not allowed to bring this forward as a concern? Of course we will but in this case we get the answer no and that, this is a business venture taking place in this case. Absolutely no, others who are involved in this project cannot sit down because we have come up with alternatives to make it a win-win situation.”

The prime minister added that if the Dutch minister does not want to do it that way, then St. Maarten will pursue matter in a formal manner, resulting in the Dutch government getting an answer based on the request for the landing of the cable.

The fibre optic cable that is presently managed by Telem is “very expensive”, the prime minister noted.

“To have a cable come in here without discussing the connectivity to that cable and a cable for what basically can be considered a grant, no. We want a to talk about conditions if that cable were to land here to protect the interests of government owned companies and the people of St. Maarten.”

Last year, the ministry of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations funded the cable that connects Saba and Statia to St. Kitts, but to limit its vulnerability, it has to be connected to St. Maarten as well.



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